Yamaha Motor Company Limited is a Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles, marine products such as boats and outboard motors, and other motorized products.
The company was established in 1955 upon separation from Yamaha Corporation (however Yamaha Corporation is still the largest shareholder with 12.21%, as of June 30, 2014), and is headquartered in Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan. The company conducts development, production and marketing operations through 109 consolidated subsidiaries as of 2012.
Led by Genichi Kawakami, the company’s first president, Yamaha Motor began production of its first product, the YA-1, in 1955. The 125cc motorcycle won the 3rd Mount Fuji Ascent Race in its class.
The company’s products includes motorcycles, scooters, motorized bicycles, boats, sail boats, personal water craft, swimming pools, utility boats, fishing boats, outboard motors, 4-wheel ATVs, recreational off-road vehicles, go-kart engines, golf carts, multi-purpose engines, electrical generators, water pumps, snowmobiles, small snow throwers, automobile engines, surface mounters, intelligent machinery, industrial-use unmanned helicopters, electrical power units for wheelchairs and helmets.The company is also involved in the import and sales of various types of products, development of tourist businesses and management of leisure, recreational facilities and related services. Yamaha’s motorcycle sales are the second largest in the world outboard motor and Yamaha is the world leader in water vehicle sales.
The motorcycle division of Yamaha was founded in 1955, and was headed by Genichi Kawakami. Yamaha’s initial product was a 125 cc (7.6 cu in) two-cycle, single cylinder motorcycle, the YA-1, which was a copy of the German DKW RT 125. The YA-1 was a competitive success at racing from the beginning, winning not only the 125cc class in the Mt. Fuji Ascent, but also sweeping the podium with first, second and third place in the All Japan Autobike Endurance Road Race that same year. Early success in racing set the tone for Yamaha, as competition in many varieties of motorcycle racing has been a key endeavor of the company throughout its history, often fueled by a strong rivalry with Honda and other Japanese manufacturers.
Yamaha began competing internationally in 1956 when they entered the Catalina Grand Prix, again with the YA-1, at which they placed sixth. The YA-1 was followed by the YA-2 of 1957, another 125cc two stroke, but with significantly improved frame and suspension.The YD-1 of 1957 was a 250cc two-stroke twin cylinder motorcycle, resembling the YA-2, but with a larger and more powerful motor. A performance version of this bike, the YDS-1 housed the 250cc two-stroke twin in a double downtube cradle frame and offered the first five-speed transmission in a Japanese motorcycle. This period also saw Yamaha offer its first outboard marine engine.
By 1963 Yamaha’s dedication to both the two-stroke engine and racing paid off with their first victory in international competition, at the Belgium GP, where they won the 250cc class. Success in sales was even more impressive, and Yamaha set up the first of its international subsidiaries in this period beginning with Thailand in 1964, and the Netherlands in 1968. 1965 saw the release of a 305cc two-stroke twin, the flagship of the company’s lineup. It featured a separate oil supply which directly injected oil into the gasoline prior to combustion (traditionally riders had to pre-mix oil into gasoline together before filling the gas tank on two stroke engines). In 1967 a new larger displacement model was added to the range, the 350cc two stroke twin R-1.
In 1968 Yamaha launched their first four-stroke motorcycle, the XS-1. The Yamaha XS-1 was a 650cc four-stroke twin, a larger and more powerful machine that equaled the displacement and performance of the popular British bikes of the era, such as the Triumph Bonneville and BSA Gold Star. Yamaha continued on with both the two-stroke line and four-stroke twins at a time that other Japanese manufacturers were increasingly moving to four cylinder four-stroke machines, a trend led by Honda in 1969 with the legendary CB-750 four-stroke four-cylinder cycle.
In 2007, Yamaha established the Philippine operations and distributes Yamaha motorcycles under the corporate name of Yamaha Motor Philippines, Inc., one of more than 20 worldwide subsidiaries operating on all continents.